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By Theresa Merto

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (April 26, 2002 – Pacific Daily News)---A joint military exercise is scheduled to wrap up today and officials already have expressed interest in returning to the island next year.

Cope North Guam-O2 is a training exercise involving the U.S. Air Force and Marines, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force troops and aircraft.

The exercise, which began April 15, is designed to enhance both countries' air operations.

"The exercise has gone quite well," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Richelle Dowdell, Cope North Guam public affairs officer. "Everyone is pleased with the results."

One by one, a variety of jets shot off the Andersen Air Force Base runway yesterday, filling the blue skies with thunderous roars.

Aircraft participating in the exercise include the F-16 Wild Weasels, F-15 Strike Eagles and F/A 18 Hornets, Air Force officials said.

This is the fourth time Andersen has hosted the annual event and this year, more than 600 troops participated.

Air Force officials estimate participants pumped about $500,000 into the local economy at hotels, restaurants and other venues.

Dowdell said officials plan to hold Cope North in Guam next year.

"We just want to thank the folks of Guam for their warm hospitality," Dowdell said.

"They have been gracious hosts. We've enjoyed the airspace and the wonderful weather."

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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